Child Health and Development

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To reach their full potential, children need high-quality health care and services—especially in life’s early years. Health promotion, safety, disease prevention, and early identification and treatment during these earliest years lay the foundation for healthy development.

Mounting evidence that health during childhood sets the stage for adult health creates an important ethical, social, and economic imperative to ensure that all children are as healthy as they can be. Healthy children are more likely to become healthy adults. FPG's scientists study many aspects of child health and development—from prenatal health to infant brain development to stress management in adolescents.

Featured Publication

Published in the Handbook of Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan, "Neurobiological Consequences of Child Maltreatment" summarizes current research on the neurobiological mechanisms that are impacted by child maltreatment through neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse. These adverse childhood experiences can be maladaptive for child neurodevelopment and increase the risks for later chronic, physical, and mental health conditions.

Featured Person

Implementation specialist Oscar Fleming, MSPH, focuses on program design, implementation science, applied research, coaching, and team development in support of evidence-based and other innovative programs. In conjunction with the National Center for Early Childhood Development, he works closely with Head Start professionals to enhance implementation capacity to improve programs and positive outcomes for children, families, and communities.

Featured Project

A new $3.6 million award from the NIMH supplements the BEE Study, which specifically focuses on the influence of poverty on brain development and cognitive development in children to determine how prenatal experiences might influence child development. The new study, "The Development of Gut Microbiota and Behavioral Inhibition in Childhood: The Role of Early Stress and Brain Development," will take the biobehavioral research even further to determine whether precursors to anxiety can be seen in gut health, and how that might impact a child's development.

 

Current Projects

The current study examines the link between poverty and executive functions (cognitive processes that facilitate learning, self-monitoring, and decision making) which are known to undergo rapid developmental change during the first years of life.
This subcontract to the University of Chicago allows UNC-CH to join an interdisciplinary team that will collect, analyze, and compare data on the impacts on participants through midlife, and on their children, of the two most influential early childhood education programs: the HighScope Perry Preschool Program (PPP) and the Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC) that targeted disadvantaged, predominantly Black, children.
The CCHD is an NICHD-T32 funded program for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees engaged in the advanced study of developmental science. Key features of the program include a seminar series, regular training events, an outstanding team of mentors, and a longstanding track record of training excellent fellows who now serve in institutions around the world.
This project leverages and builds upon an existing longitudinal cohort to propose hypotheses that investigate the ways in which early life stress alters well-specified developmental processes to adversely affect neurodevelopment in childhood and increase risk for obesity and other health outcomes. It extends our prior data collection both retrospectively and prospectively in order to amplify and enhance our focus on adverse exposures and health and behavior outcomes.
This project will examine cross-cultural patterns in feedback sensitivity, emotion regulation, and learning among adolescents. Findings may have practical applications to the classroom and could inform interventions for bolstering students' academic performance.
The Equity Research Action Coalition will co-construct with practitioners and policymakers actionable research to support the optimal development of Black children prenatally through childhood across the African diaspora using a cultural wealth framework. The coalition will focus on developing a science-based action framework to eradicate the impact of racism and poverty and all its consequences on the lives of Black children, families, and communities, and to ensure optimal health, well-being, school readiness and success, and overall excellence.
The purpose of this project is to understand the early development trajectories in both poor and non-poor young children growing up in rural areas characterized by high poverty. An interdisciplinary team of investigators has been following children from birth with measurement of child, family, and school functioning, observed mother and father sensitivity and language input in the home setting, observed quality of instruction in child care and elementary school, characteristics of the community, and biomarkers of child and maternal stress.
We are examining psychiatric and health outcomes in a 5-year follow-up of 200 well-characterized, very high-risk, maltreated and non-maltreated children. This is an ideal study in which to examine patterns of stability and change in the regulation of stress-sensitive genes over time.
The JOIN for ME program is a pediatric weight management intervention that can be delivered in community settings, with potential for national dissemination. We will package the JOIN for ME program to increase acceptability and feasibility for delivery in low-income communities and test implementation in two novel settings: the housing authority and the patient-centered medical home. The revised JOIN for ME package will be tested in a rigorous implementation study.
The Frank Porter Graham Program on Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Families is a suite of programs related to self-compassion in families and schools. Our mission is to bring specialized self-compassion training to teens, pre-teens, children, parents, educators, and all adults who traverse the lives of youth, with the ultimate goal of creating a community embued with greater compassion for ourselves and others.
The RI-Asthma Integrated Response (RI-AIR) Asthma Care Implementation Program (ACIP) is a comprehensive system of identification, screening, and intervention for pediatric asthma. We aim to demonstrate that RI-AIR ACIP is a replicable, evidence-based, and cost-saving model that improves asthma outcomes for children at most risk, and can be disseminated to other urban communities to address asthma disparities.
The current study will be the first to examine the influence of early toxic stress, including the distal effects of living in poverty as well as the proximal factors of negative parenting and household chaos, on the development of gut microbiome diversity and maturity across 15, 24, 26, and 54 months.
The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of an early reading professional development program, the Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI), on young English learners' reading achievement.